This is probably the number one criteria most beltway politicians judge candidates to be good or not.
Let's take this a bit further. What do they use the money they raise for? The number one cost of a campaign is TV advertising. It can suck up millions of dollars.
So, what we have is a bizarre, obscene reality-- the number one criteria for a candidate for public office is his or her ability to buy TV advertising. This is not bizarre. It is insane. But it's the exact model that the DCCC, it's head Rahm Emanuel and the leaders of the both parties in Washington embrace. One problem. It's not what the majority of Americans want.
Even more interesting, and this is a finding you'll never see a TV Network sponsored poll ask is that a majority, 65% of voters, support requiring TV and radio shows to provide FREE air time to candidates in elections. (See question 21 of our poll. All cross-tabs are here.
Put those two together-- fixed funding for candidates and free air time and that takes the air out of the fund raising criteria for evaluating a candidate. And it should raising money is the job of an investor, not a representative of the people-- a legislator whose job it is to look out for the best interests of constituents.
Take the money factor out of politics and what criteria do you have left? Ability to capture the trust of the voter? Ability to sell the candidate's self on the basis of character, integrity, likeability, vision, wisdom, resourcefulness. These are good things. Ability to build a grassroots team, ability to bring people together in support of the campaign. These are the signs of leadership that make a good candidate.
87% of Democrats support the idea that all eligible candidates should get a fixed amount of money to spend on their campaigns to prevent influence buying. 41% of Republicans and 70% of independents also support this. A majority of every religious category supports this, except born agains, and even among this most conservative base, it is supported by 47% to 42% that support unlimited money from all sources. Even NASCAR fans, military families, investors and people in every income bracket are more suppportive of it than opposed to it.
The support for free ad time for qualified candidates to local and national media is even stronger among Republicans and just as strong among Democrats and even 62% of born-agains and libertarians support the idea. And why not. The media get their free license from the people. Why shouldn't that license come with a requirement that the people get to use the airtime to help enable honest elections?
Considering the voting public's low opinion of the media, with less 2% considering it excellent and only 13% considering it good or excellent, it is no wonder that the public feels the media should give up ad time for the price of democracy.
What would happen if strict campaign laws required that candidates only spent a set amount of money, that they would get free access to TV and radio ad time? There would also have to be laws regulating third party ads-- like swift boat ad sponsors run. But most important, people would not judge a candidate by the money he got from PACs, business, wealthy people and who knows where else. Candidates would be judged for more substantive reasons. The people of the US deserve this.